Is there a right age for an orchestra musician to retire?

Posted on: September 19, 2018

“Similar to college professors or federal judges, orchestra musicians are awarded tenure after a trial period with the ensemble,” writes Jeremy Reynolds in Sunday’s (9/16) Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “These musicians are expected to perform at peak levels no matter their age…. George Vosburgh … who retired [as principal trumpet of] the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra last year at age 59 … said that it’s not uncommon for orchestras … to have a member or two whose technical proficiency has begun to decline…. Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra horn player Zachary Smith, 58 … has no plans to retire anytime soon. ‘To work with older players is gold,’ Mr. Smith said. ‘You learn … by sitting next to these seasoned, professional artists day in and day out.’ … A German study [of more than 2,500 musicians in 2014] … found that most orchestral musicians believe that they attained maximum technical skill between the ages of 30 and 39…. Harold Smoliar, 61, retired this year as the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s English horn player…. He’ll continue to play jazz piano…. ‘In the last few years … the effort to be fresh was a constant drain,’ he said. ‘It’s actually mostly mental for me. It was time.’ ”

Posted September 19, 2018